Monday, October 26, 2015

"Looking for Water" by John Engels

Wild Turkeys in Flight -- Photo by Coy Hill

A river is supposed to be nearby, and reachable,
and since in a strange place the first thing
is to look for running water, I ask, and discover
that no one knows exactly
where the river is, though
there's plenty of speculation.
They think it might be somewhere back below
where the hiking trails used to run,
beyond the old bridle paths, probably
overgrown by now, as they recall, a difficult
tangle of distance over steep descents
through grapevine, blackberry, alder hells.
I have to make my own way, following
in the hardening red clay the beautiful tridental tracks
of what turn out to be a dozen
wild turkeys that a scant ten yards ahead
take wing in the watery dusk,
flap up and glide back over the road, slow
as big, bronze, iridescent fish,
the whole time wind like a minor surf,
and while I'm still breathing hard, six deer
exactly the color of hickory startle and crash off
through a sudden general reddening of the day,
and staring after them I see
a white gleam through the trees,
not the river, but a headstone--I've come
on an old graveyard,
where the turkeys must just
have been feeding, and the deer
running through, leaping headstones
of Cheatham and Goode, Asleep
in Jesus, and the Glasgow sisters, dead
at ten and two and eight,
reason enough to give up and head back,
and I'm home after dark
where a globed lamp in the farthest dip of the lawn
I mistake for the moon on water.

Excerpt from Big Water, Lyons & Burford, New York, N. Y., 1995.

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